Private casinos and public lotteries have spread like wildfire over the past 50 years. You know what we’re talking about. You may have even bought a ticket or placed a bet yourself from time to time; nothing wrong with that.
This raises a question, though: why is gambling so popular? One reason is that human beings are hard-wired to believe in Lady Luck. But does she really exist? Only if you’re a casino owner or lottery official, to be honest. For the rest of us, she’s a fickle female indeed.
If random fortune is not the key to making money, then what is? In the construction world, the answer comes down to hard work and skilled craftsmanship, backed up by smart business moves.
It’s up to you to provide the skills and the sweat. As for the business smarts, we offer the following five secrets of successful construction companies. Use them to plot your personal rise to the top.
Secret # 1: Remember the Lessons of 2008
2008 was the year from Hell in the construction world. Companies at the top of their game on New Years’ Day found themselves down and out by Christmas. On the other hand, those with ample amounts of liquid reserves not only survived the storm, many of them went on to achieve greater success than ever before.
This lesson is harder to grasp than it may at first appear. That’s because it’s easy to confuse reserves with equity. Homeowners often fall into the trap. They have $100,000.00 of equity in their home and tell themselves they have 100 grand in liquid assets.
In reality, they have $100,000.00 worth of momentary collateral, the value which can vanish overnight. The same is true for that fancy equipment and commercial property you control. Its asking price can drop through the floor faster than you can blink.
The lesson from this reality check is that nothing can take the place of cash when it comes to building a nest egg. It’s important to remember this fact when times are good and receivables are high. That way, when the next 2008 comes along, you’ll stay firmly anchored to the shore instead of being washed out with the tide.
Secret # 2: Let the Amish Teach You a Lesson about Branding
One group of construction professionals that never lacks for work is the Amish. These hardworking, simple living people are known for both their superb craftsmanship and their distinctive style of dress. They’re hard to catch loafing but easy to spot in a crowd.
This offers lessons for the rest of us. The way to out-do your competitors is to stand apart from them in a way that’s easy to see and hard to forget. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:
Do the other construction companies in your area drive white trucks? Stock your fleet with black trucks and say something like, “when it comes to us vs. the other guys, the difference is as plain as black and white.”
Every reputable construction firm loves to hand out business cards. But how many of them add a low-cost, useful item like a company pen or a piece of wrapped candy? Spending a few cents on small promotional items can make a big difference in how you’re perceived.
How’s your web site? Most construction firms are stuck in the 1990s when it comes to their online presence. Instead of just a bare-bones page with your name and contact information, why not add a video introduction from yourself along with images of past projects? Tap into the talents of a web guru if you need to; it’s money well spent.
The point of these ideas is to get you thinking about ways to distinguish your company’s image from your competitors. It’s part of what marketers call branding.
Having built your brand, it’s crucial that you nourish it by backing up your style with substance. Otherwise you’ll accomplish the opposite of what you intend.
To see what we mean, think back to the earlier example about Amish construction companies. How long would they stay in business if they showed up late and did slipshod work?
You know the answer to that question. Branding tactics like company pens and black trucks can never replace quality work done on-time and within budget. But, by combining the two, you sow the seeds of future prosperity.
Secret # 3: Let Jeff Bezos Run Amazon and Mind Your Own Business
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos built his wealth in the ruthless world of retail sales, where razor-thin margins are par for the course. In fact, Amazon actually lost money during its first seven years in existence. Yet somehow it stayed afloat. Now it runs the world of commerce.
We can all admire Bezos for his brilliance. One thing we cannot do, however, is beat him at the low-price game. Nor can we go head-to-head with cost-cutting champs like Wal-Mart or Aldi Foods. Yet this is exactly what construction companies are trying to do when they brand themselves as the “low price leader” in their area. There are simply too many variables involved in the average construction project to make money this way.
A better strategy is to build value by consistently delivering excellence. That way, you’ll enjoy higher profits without obsessing over pocket change. Not only that, but you’ll also have time left over to live your life.
Secret # 4: Catch Your People Doing Something Right
To be fair, we can’t take credit for coming up with this insight. It’s almost a word-for-word quote from Ken Blanchard 1982 book The One Minute Manager, one of the greatest books on people management ever written. It’s a short read and well worth a few hours of your time.
Blanchard’s advice is just as valid in the Internet Age as it was in the 80s. Yet how many of us use it? All too often, we do the exact opposite. We raise sand when someone goofs up and say nothing when they get it right.
Not only is this ungrateful and abusive, it’s also bad for business. This is especially the case in a field like construction, where good talent is like gold: rare and precious.
It’s not enough to pay your people what they’re worth. You should also call them on the carpet in a good way when they exceed your expectations. As Dale Carnegie said in How to Win Friends and Influence People, you should “be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”
There are countless ways you can do this, from awarding choice parking spots to simply saying, “Good job; I appreciate it.” The message is more important than the medium. So keep it positive whenever possible. Fostering a toxic work culture will only end up with you gagging on the fumes. You’re too smart to use such short-sighted tactics.
Secret # 5: Stick with What You Know
All of us have our limits. Stephen King can write spine-tingling stories. But put him on a construction site and ask him to run a miter saw and you might see some scary results. Take a great residential carpenter, put him in charge of building a skyscraper, and see what happens. Here’s a tip: better wear your hard hat.
You went into the construction field because you love the work. Yet many of the aspects of running a business have little to do with practicing your chosen trade. Try to turn yourself into an accountant, an insurance expert and an office manager and you’ll end up doing nothing well. That’s no dig against you; it’s just the way the world is. Successful construction professionals understand and accept this fact.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be an internet whiz to benefit from modern cloud-based technology. Take busybusy for example. It tells you what’s going on with your labor costs with to-the-minute accuracy. You’ll not only know when your people clock in and out but where they are at the time. You’ll know how many hours are going into each project so you’ll never be caught by surprise. You can even sign documents on your device. There’s no better or easier way to get a handle on this vital part of your business.
busybusy was built from the ground up by computer-savvy construction professionals who know what you need in a valuable, reliable app. This sets our product apart from cookie-cutter software cobbled together by people who have never laced up a pair of boots, carried a lunch pail, or swung a hammer.
Call or email us today to set up your free demo. In the meantime, give yourself an edge over the other guy by keeping liquid reserves, nurturing your brand, focusing on value, and giving your people the recognition they deserve. Those are great ways to lay the foundation for your future success.